From my perspective, the estate tax is a bad way to tax the rich because it violates a principle that economists call horizontal equity. The basic idea is that similar people should face similar tax burdens.
Many countries do not tax inheritance at all, including Australia, Canada and Sweden. Most do, but the tax rates are usually much lower than what we impose in the United States. Among the nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average for the top estate tax rate is 15 percent. The median is only 7 percent, which is the rate in Switzerland.
low estate tax rate, it would surely put a lot of the estate planning industry out of business. Hiring expensive legal talent may make sense when the rate is 40 or 45 percent, but not when it is 7 or 15 percent. Yet that would be a good thing. The time those lawyers spend helping the rich skirt the estate tax is, from an economic standpoint, pure waste.